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“It’s likely’’: silent rise in leptospirosis cases in Queensland

Following reports of increased rodent activity in Queensland, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland reminds relevant industries of ways to protect workers from leptospirosis.

What is leptospirosis and how do you catch it?

Leptospirosis is an infection you can get from animals including rats, mice, pigs, and dogs. Leptospirosis can be caught by humans if urine from infected animals gets into broken skin from cuts, scratches, or rashes, and if it enters through the eyes or mouth.

Often, symptoms of leptospirosis are mild, or might feel similar to the flu. Symptoms can include fever and chills, muscle aches, sore throat and cough, nausea or vomiting, rash, and loss of appetite. It is rare the symptoms are very serious or fatal, but vigilance is encouraged for industries working closely with animals. It is not transferred from person to person.

Where could people come into contact with infected animal urine?

Broadly, if you:

  • work with animals or animal parts (i.e., vet, butcher, farm, piggery, or meat/diary processing business)
  • come into contact with water used to wash out animal pens
  • work in a contaminated environment (i.e., sewers, plumbing, fishing)
  • use infected manure in your garden. Rats or mice might have gotten into your potting mix or garden beds
  • walk or wade barefoot through floodwaters or mud from flood waters
  • engage in freshwater activities like water sports, fishing, or kayaking
  • deal with a rat or mouse nest without protective gear.

More information

Learn more about workplace obligations and risk management.